Latin American Leaders Plead for New Ideas in Drug War

Latin American leaders at ground zero of the war on drugs called for a new approach on July 26, saying the current drive to crush powerful cartels has failed to reduce consumption.
WRITER-ID | 28 September 2012

Latin American leaders at ground zero of the war on drugs called for a new approach on July 26, saying the current drive to crush powerful cartels has failed to reduce consumption.

The presidents of Mexico, Guatemala and Colombia all addressed the UN General Assembly on the need to find a new approach to the global war drugs.

“The premise of our fight against drugs has proven to have serious flaws,” said President Otto Perez of Guatemala, who in the past has advocated legalizing drugs to wipe out the profit motive for traffickers.

According to U.S. government figures, some 90% of the cocaine and other drugs sent from South America to the United States passes through or is stored in Central America, helping make it one of the world’s most violent regions.

Outgoing Mexican President Felipe Calderon pleaded with the United Nations to examine the “limits” of the war on drugs and weigh alternatives to the fight in which thousands die every year.

“I demand that the United Nations not only take part in, but that it lead, a discussion without prejudices … that could bring us all to solutions that have new and efficient focuses,” Calderon told the U.N. General Assembly.

In his last address to the world body before he steps down on December 1st, Calderon claimed that most countries have not owned up to the role they play in deadly organized drug crime, “the biggest cause of violent crime in the world.”

The United Nations “must honestly examine, with academic rigor and global responsibility, what the (policy) alternatives could be—specifically regulatory and market-based alternatives—so that we can determine if they are really alternatives or not.”

Mexico’s relentless drug war has claimed more than 60,000 lives since 2006, when the Calderon government deployed troops to break up drug cartels.

Calderon has been one of the most high-profile figures in the war on drugs.

But more recently, as he prepares to hand over power to Enrique Peña Nieto, who was elected in July, Calderon has advocated alternatives—an increasingly common demand among Latin American leaders.

The president of Colombia, which along with Peru is the world’s top producer of cocaine, also said the problem needs a re-think.

“We must determine, objectively and scientifically, if we are doing the best we can or if there are better options to battle this scourge better,” said President Juan Manuel Santos.

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